Police officers in Aurora, Colorado had no reasonable basis to stop and frisk Elijah McClain, or put him in a chokehold, according to an independent investigation into the unarmed black man’s fatal 2019 arrest released on Monday.
The probe by a panel of outside legal and medical experts was commissioned by the Aurora City Council as the 23-year-old’s death drew new attention last spring during the nationwide protests against racism and police brutality.
The 153-page report resulting from the probe blasted the police department’s handling of an earlier investigation into the deadly encounter and criticized the decision by paramedics to inject McClain with the sedative ketamine.
McClain was stopped by police as he was walking home from a convenience store on Aug. 24, 2019 after someone reported him as suspicious.
But “none of the officers articulated a crime that they thought Mr. McClain had committed, was committing or was about to commit,” the report found.
It took cops just 10 seconds “to turn what may have been a consensual encounter with Mr. McClain into an investigatory stop” without apparent grounds, investigators wrote.
“This decision had ramifications for the rest of the encounter.”
Officers used a neckhold on McClain that stops the flood of blood to the brain, rendering him temporarily unconscious.
Paramedics then injected him with 500 milligrams of ketamine “without conducting anything more than a brief visual observation,” the report states.
“At the time of the injection, Mr. McClain had not moved or made any sounds for about one minute,” investigators wrote.
“In addition, EMS administered a ketamine dosage based on a grossly inaccurate and inflated estimate of Mr. McClain’s size.”
McClain went into cardiac arrest during the encounter and died days later at a hospital.
The renewed scrutiny around his death sparked several investigations, including a probe into possible criminal charges by the Colorado Attorney General’s Office that remains in progress.
Earlier probes by city departments determined that the cops and paramedics didn’t violate policy and a local district attorney declined to bring charges.
But the report released Monday found that Aurora police “failed to ask basic, critical questions” about the incident that would have helped prosecutors determine whether the use of force was justified.
Police investigators instead asked questions that appeared specifically designed to “exonerate the officers rather than present a neutral version of the facts,” the report states.
The investigators recommended several changes to policies around how cops and paramedics are trained and urged the city to consider overhauling how it reviews incidents.
McClain’s family last year filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city and the cops and emergency responders involved in the young man’s death.
Family lawyer Mari Newman said Monday’s report “confirms what we have known all along: Aurora police and medics violated Elijah McClain’s civil rights, and Aurora did everything in its power to sweep his murder under the rug.”
With Post wires